The fighting on September 14th 1862 was brutal and intense. When it was over, thousands of men lay dead or wounded upon the hillside, all over South Mountain.
When the stories of battles are told, it's the glory that people focus upon. The dead become mere statistics, swamped by the endless analysis of tactics and manoeuvrings. Who won and who lost? And what was the point of it all?
Yet for those at the time, in those places, the immediate concern is not for battles and wars, but what to do with the casualties lying putrefying in the autumn sun. Nearly 1000 people died on that day. Their bodies were still there.
Collecting them up and burying them was not a pleasant task. It fell to a battalion of the 11th Ohio - Union soldiers - to dig the graves. It took them four days to do so; and most of that was with the help of a large supply of whiskey. Drunk was the only way it was bearable.
Local legend states that there was a second channel of help during this time. The Union soldiers let it be known amongst the populace that they would be paid one dollar for every body buried. Young men with shovels swarmed ahead, out to make some cash.
Farmer Daniel Wise didn't have to look far. His cabin had been right in the midst of the carnage. No-one even knew how his simple home was still standing. It had been blasted by so much ammunition. But it was not just the woodwork that the bullets and cannon-fire had hit.
There were no less than fifty-eight bodies in his yard. He had to walk through them to check out all he had left. But he'd also heard of the dollar rewards and $58 would be a great sum. It would more than cover the rebuilding. It would render him relatively rich.
He began his grisly work, dragging corpses closer to his doorstep and piling them high. He did not dig their graves. He had a much better idea than that.
Before the battle, Old Man Wise had been busy digging a new well. It was deep, but not yet at the level of water. Into the dry well went the bodies, one after another, until all fifty-eight were underground. Then he piled on top some soil and called the burial done.
He got his money. He sat on his deck smoking from a new pipe, filled with a generous amount of fresh tobacco. Just part of his spending spree in town. Yet as he contemplated all that had happened, all that he'd done, he gradually became aware that he was not alone.
The apparition appeared first in the lane, coming closer, until he was standing on the deck beside Daniel Wise. The ghostly figure wore grey, the uniform of the Confederacy, and his injuries appeared as dark smudges on his form. He was transparent and staring right at the old man.
Shaken, Old Man Wise scrambled back from his seat, right up against the shattered cabin wall. The ghostly rebel spoke plaintively, "I'm most uncomfortable lying on my face. Turn me over."
Daniel Wise gasped out, "What?!"
The Confederate ghost moaned, "Turn me over! Please turn me over!" Then was gone. Just like that. No warning, no fading. He just simply wasn't there.
It was dark in the yard, but Old Man Wise fetched his shovel. He worked through the night, clambering into the well and heaving the bodies back to the surface. At the 11th time, he found himself looking into the face of the ghost who'd visited him. That body had indeed been stacked face down.
The next morning dawned with graves freshly dug. Each soldier now buried properly and Old Man Wise standing dazed with trauma and exhaustion.